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Romeo (n.d): Decentralizing for Development: the developmental potential of local autonomy and the limits of politics-­‐driven decentralization reforms

This  paper  points  at  the  missing  link  between  decentralization  and  local  development  in  so  many  countries   whose   decentralization   reforms   are   driven   by   political   rather   than   developmental   goals.   It   suggests   that   decentralization   reforms   in   developing   countries   could   be   better   designed,   sustained,   and   externally   supported,   if   understood   as   domestic   efforts   to   build   “developmental   states”,   rather   than   attempts   to   implement   an   international   “good   governance”   agenda.   It   argues   that,   linking   decentralization   to   development   requires   a   rather   specific   understanding   of   local   development   and   of   the   role   of   local   autonomy  to  promote  it.  It  also  posits  that  successful  development-­‐driven  decentralization  reforms  require   both   a   wider   national   policy   for   local   development,   and   the   emergence   of   social   demand   and   responsible   local  leadership.  The  paper  then  reflects  on  why  the  politics-­‐driven  decentralization  reforms  so  common  in   the   real   world   are   bound   to   remain   incomplete   and   easily   reversible,   but   also   on   why   actors   who   are   committed   to   promoting   “local   development   through   local   governments”   (LDLG),   may   still   remain   engaged   with   such   reforms   and   take   advantage   of   their   contradictions.   It   concludes   by   outlining   how   external   aid   could   more   effectively   support   domestic   reform   champions   as   they   navigate   through   local   politics   to   advance  decentralization  reforms  that  actually  promote  local  development. 

This draft was shared by Leonardo Romeo during the EC advanced seminar on support to decentralisation and local governance, delivered in Brussels by DEVCO Unit D2 and ECDPM in July 2012.

The draft is not for quotation.

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Herrero Alisa
18 July 2012

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